The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, and since then it’s created a steady stream of amazing animation.
But they don’t make every movie they think of. Every studio has its cast-offs, its rejects, and its films that just don’t work out.
Let’s take a look back at 9 of the most amazing films Disney started, but never finished. In an alternate world, these pictures came out and made their mark on the world and our memories. They’re films from the Disney that Never Was.
The Original, Way More Messed-Up The Little Mermaid (1930s)
Fifty-six years before Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder embarked on their adventure, Walt Disney considered a very different take on the story. He was looking for a new project to begin after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As Walt had done so often before, he looked to the works of Hans Christian Andersen.
The 19th century Danish writer was a lifelong fascination of Disney’s, and inspired a great many of his classic films. His stories permeate Disney movies from Snow White and Cinderella all the way through Frozen, which was based on his 1844 story “The Snow Queen”.
Disney had to do some creative editing to make the stories suitable for movie audiences, though. The thing is, Hans Christian Andersen stories are dark. They’re messed up. They’ve even been described as “super-metal”.
Old fairy tales and fables tend to be a lot gorier than we expect in modern kid stuff. Ever look up what “Ring Around the Rosie” is about?
Take The Little Mermaid, for example. Here’s the original tale, the one that Walt Disney eventually discarded in favor of The Ugly Duckling.
It starts off about the same. The mermaid, who has no name in the original story, falls in love with a prince. She makes a deal with a Sea Witch (Ursula in the movie) to exchange her tongue for a pair of legs, and she journeys across the land until she finds the prince, and he returns her love.
Here’s where it diverges just a smidge.
The Prince ends up marrying a girl from another kingdom, whom he believes is the one who saved him from drowning years ago. The deal the Little Mermaid struck with the Sea Witch says that if he marries another, she will die of a broken heart and dissolve into sea foam. Just as this is about to happen, her sisters arrive to try and save her.
They’ve made their own deal with the Sea Witch, who gave them a magical knife in exchange for their hair. The Little Mermaid needs to kill the prince and drip his blood on her feet, which will turn her back into a mermaid.
The Little Mermaid goes off to kill the prince on his wedding night. She can’t bring herself to do it, and instead leaps into the water. Pain, seafoam, dead.
Here’s the happy ending: Instead of being destroyed, the Mermaid becomes a spirit who must atone for her sins by doing good deeds for 300 years. Then and only then will she be allowed into Heaven.
So, Disney decided that was a little much, and made The Ugly Duckling instead. No surprise that the movie that eventually did come out has practically no resemblance to this story.